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The Family Tradition That’s Kept Us Sane During COVID-19

Introducing kids to Guitar Hero. Participating in a lottery to make lunchtime fun. Limbering up. These are the traditions kept families going.

It may sound cloying and cliché but that doesn’t make it any less true: we all have to make the best out of bad situations. This is especially so right now when things are, erm, far from great. One of the easiest ways for parents to create a little consistency amid the chaos is to start a new family tradition. Such rituals offer us all — particularly kids — something to look forward to, which is a small great thing in times like these. If you’re at a loss for what kind of traditions to start, we spoke to a dozen dads about the family traditions that have kept them and their families sane during COVID-19. Answers ranged from the food-related (Big Breakfast Sunday! Lunch Lottery) to the activity-oriented (Movie Roulette! Saturday Basketball!). While different, all were straightforward, fun, and helped anchor the families during these rocky times. Here’s what they said. 

We Brought Back Guitar Hero

“When the pandemic first hit, I busted out my old Guitar Hero setup from when I was in college. I think my kids were aware that Guitar Hero was a thing, but didn’t really have any idea how it worked or how it was played. I was never good at it, but it turns out my wife and kids are. It’s kind of an ordeal, so we set it up in the basement every weekend and just rock out. The kids (son, 7, and daughter, 9) have started dressing up for the ‘sessions’. We’ve even live streamed a few. I don’t want to get cocky, but we had like seven viewers one time. I guess you could say our Guitar Hero: COVID Edition is blowing up.” – Sean, 35, South Carolina 

On Friday’s, We Eat Pizza

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“It’s a pretty simple tradition: on Friday, we order pizza. The tradition used to involve our kids’ friends coming over, which hasn’t happened since March. But, we’ve kept the tradition alive this whole time. Before COVID, we used to order from the same place because it was more about the company. Now, since it’s just us, we’ve used Pizza Friday to sample every pizza restaurant in our town, and we’ve gotten takeout from places we probably never would’ve if all this wasn’t going on. In the end, it’s kind of a mutated form of a pre-existing tradition, but it’s one that we love, and one that we’re going to keep doing no matter what.” – Tom, 37, Florida 

The  “Big Breakfast”

“Every Sunday, we do what’s called ‘Big Breakfast’. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s the breakfast from movies, TV shows, and commercials that looks too good to be true. We do our grocery shopping for the week with Big Breakfast as the centerpiece, and everything comes together Sunday morning at the dining room table. It’s like the main event of the week. The menu isn’t always the same — one week it’ll be five different kinds of pancakes, the next it’ll be make-your-own omelettes — but we’ve all got our favorites. I think what I’ve liked most about Big Breakfast, aside from the actual food, is realizing that we can absolutely continue this tradition long after COVID is over. We just needed the nudge of quarantine to get started.” – Chris, 36, North Carolina 

We Play Movie Roulette 

“Back in May, I had a feeling that we were going to be in quarantine for the long haul. We  — myself, my wife, our two sons and our daughter — all came up with a list of 50 movies. The only rule was that they had to be age appropriate. Every weekend, we put them all in a bucket and pull one out to decide what we’re going to watch. We started this tradition 16 weeks ago, which means we’ve had 16 movie nights. Somehow – somehowTrolls has been pulled three times! Only one of my movies — Honey, I Shrunk The Kids — has been picked. That’s the fun of it, though. The winner gets some bragging rights, and we all get to watch a fun movie together. Trolls, though, man. I feel like I should watch that movie on a flight to Vegas after this is over.” – Connor, 39, Kentucky 

Nightly Dog Walks

We adopted our dog right at the end of last year. He was a puppy then, but he’s pretty full grown now, and our lasting COVID tradition has been the nightly walks. He gets walked around the block every night, but the roster of people walking him changes. Sometimes it’s just me. Sometimes it’s my wife and daughter. Sometimes it’s all three of us. In any form, it’s like a standing appointment every night that everyone is welcome to join. It’s a simple tradition – more of a responsibility, actually – that has been a great way for us to relax at the end of the day, and regroup for the night. It’s definitely helped us anchor onto something during all this uncertainty. – Aaron, 37, Indiana 

Saturday Basketball Games 

Our family is pretty athletic, and not having any kind of sports going on for so long just drove us crazy. We have a basketball hoop, so we decided to have a Saturday game every week. It’s usually me and my daughter (10) versus my wife and son (8). It’s gotten to the point where we’ve named our teams (Go Indominus Rexes!), made jerseys, and choreographed handshakes. Some of our neighbors have even asked to play, but we respectfully declined just because of social distancing. Every once in a while, though, people will come hang out in their driveways and watch for a little while. – Matt, 36, California 

Friday FaceTime

Our kids are out of the house. Our daughter lives on the east coast, and our son lives about two hours south of us. So, we’re not dealing with a full house like most people. That said, it’s a new kind of loneliness that comes with knowing you’re separated from your kids by government mandate instead of choice. We don’t want our daughter to fly, and our son has his own life as well. So, every Friday at 7 pm, we all FaceTime together. Sometimes it lasts an hour, sometimes it’s just a quick, five-minute check in to see how everyone’s doing. It’s definitely helping bide the time between now and when it will be safe to see each other in person again. – Jacob, 45, California  

Movie Theater Thursday

“Every Thursday we set up our basement like a movie theater. There are recliners down there, which we move next to each other in front of the TV. We ordered some big theater-style popcorn buckets in the beginning, and now our son and daughter have gotten into making tickets and movie posters to hang up during the week to get us excited. I think it’ll be great, once this is all over, years and years from now, to pull them back out and remember how much of a fun tradition this was. We haven’t been to a real movie theater since January, I don’t think. But we’re enjoying our own weekly shows very much. Next week is Back to the Future.” – Charles, 38, Ohio

Storytime

“When you cut out the morning and evening routines and commutes to and from work and school, you end up with an extra three hours in the day. At least, our family did. No getting ready. No traffic. Just walk downstairs and you’re either at work or at school. So, since we don’t have to get up super early anymore, we’ve been staying up later with our boys and reading a quick bedtime story every night. A lot have been repeats, obviously, but they’re classics. My wife and I switch on and off most nights, and it’s become a tradition we all look forward to. It’s really a great way to end each day.” – Will, 33, Texas

Lunch Lottery

Almost every day, when we’re ready for lunch, we put everyone’s names into a randomizer app and whoever gets picked gets to choose what we have that day. We started calling it ‘The Lunch Lottery’, and I think we’ve gotten at least 90 days’ worth of lunch out of it. It’s a very, very small thing, but it keeps our kids  — who are five and seven — entertained. Our son ‘won’ four days in a row last month, which meant macaroni and cheese for almost a week. I’ll admit, after that, my wife and I had to rig the game a little just to make sure we were still eating relatively healthy.” – Brian, 34, Ohio

Family Yoga 

“Three times a week, our family does yoga together. My wife and I have been doing it for years, and now that our kids are home with us we’ve turned it into a family tradition. The times of day vary. Sometimes we’ll all do it first thing in the morning, if we happen to wake up close to the same time. But lately it’s been more of a relaxing ‘chill out’ time before bed. We have two girls, 10 and 12, and they’re pretty into it. Once all the fitness companies started offering their videos for free online at the beginning of quarantine, we jumped on the opportunity to try some out. Now we’ve found a bunch we like, and don’t plan on stopping. – Mike, 35, Pennsylvania 

Rock Painting

My daughter did this as an art project in school — you know, back when school was a thing. Her class painted ‘kindness rocks’, which were basically just stones that had positive messages or cute pictures on them. So, like, ‘UR AWESOME!’ with a drawing of a unicorn or something. Then they left them outside the school, near the playground, so other students and teachers could find them. We go on family walks every week, so the night before we each decorate one and then leave it for someone to find in the park. We usually walk the same path and in almost three months I don’t think we’ve ever seen a rock we’d left the week prior. Hopefully that means our new family tradition is making someone else smile.” – Daniel, 36, Michigan